Coeliccia doisuthepensis Asahina, 1984

In August 2011, I made a 3-day motorbike trip to Mai Chau (northern Vietnam, 150 km east of Hanoi), in Hoa Binh Province - that borders the Laotian Province of Hua Phan.

As I was searching a way to enter Pu Luong Natural Reserve, an area of outstanding beauty, I noticed a forest streamlet on the right of the road, at an elevation of about 1,100 m. After 10 minutes exploring the place, I bumped into a male Coeliccia resting on a leaf, 50 cm above the water. I knew it was a new species for me straight away due to the 3 pairs of blue markings on the synthorax dorsum. Later, I spotted 2 or 3 other males. I didn't get to see any females.

Almost certain it was an interesting species (I mean : not only interesting for me, the beginner!), I decided, exceptionally, to collect voucher specimens that were passed later to Dô Manh Cuong. Searching the web once home (not the best ID method, I know...), I identified it as Coeliccia doisuthepensis on the basis of color pattern and markings. One week later, the ID was confirmed by Dô Manh Cuong and R.A. Dow after examination of the caudal appendages and penile organ (a much better method!).

This is Vietnam's first record of this species. The country list of Coeliccia gets longer almost every year (around 14-15 species currently), with the discovery of species new to science or already known in neighboring countries (China, Laos, Thailand…).

Male synthorax bears 3 pairs of pale azure stripes on the front : one anterior pair close to the dorsal carina, another upper but smaller pair ; the third one, on the anterior border of mesepimeron close to the humeral suture, is reduced to 2 narrow lines.

Caudal appendages dull yellowish. In the superiors, the ventral spine is situated rather distally with a sharp spine directed inwardly.

Lateral view

Dorso-lateral view

The penile organ is of curious shape, ending in a horned head and without any filament at all.

Penile organ
(left : sketch of Syoziro Asahina in A list of Odonata from Thailand. Part VI. Platycnemididae - Genus Coeliccia)

Coeliccia doisuthepensis is known in northern Thailand (Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai), Laos and now northern Vietnam, and is likely to occur in Myanmar and southern China.

I found it along a slow-flowing shady streamlet (low gradient, 50 cm wide) running through disturbed secondary growth montane forest in karst terrain. The area was grazing by buffaloes and over-exploited by local people - many hamlets around.
Not really the kind of place particularly promising for Odonata!

(Nota : photos of caudal appendages and penile organ by Dô Manh Cuong, from the specimens collected at Mai Chau).


Coeliccia uenoi Asahina, 1997

Coeliccia uenoi is a large-sized Coeliccia species I have seen 2 or 3 times at Cuc Phuong National Park (Ninh Binh Province, northern Vietnam, 120 km southwest of Hanoi), and only males.

The male is colored black and blue with striking yellow last abdominal segments and appendages. 
Prothorax entirely black.
Synthorax black, both sides being striped with three broad azure blue markings.
The mesepisternum bears a pair of patches covering about 2/3 of its length.
Abdomen black from S1 to S8, segments 3-6 provided with pale terminal ring. Two terminal segments dull yellow, each with a dark ventral marking.

Frontal view ot the synthorax showing the
particular shape of the 2 patches

Caudal appendages dull yellowish, superiors much shorter than the inferiors.
In the superior appendages, ending in an angulated head (in dorsal view), the usual ventral spine is situated at about 2/3 of their length.
Inferior appendages with an incurved tip.

Lateral view

Dorso-lateral view

Coeliccia uenoi is a "speciality" of Cuc Phuong National Park. Discovered in 1995 by a team from Tokyo Science Museum, this species has never been recorded outside the park's boundaries.

Established in 1962, Cuc Phuong is the oldest National Park in Vietnam. It protect one of the few remaining primary lowland forests of the country. Once covered much of Vietnam up to elevation of 600-700 m, these forests are now rare and greatly threatened because their accessibility places them under the greatest pressure from exploitation, agriculture and development. The vast majority of them are replaced now by scrub and secondary forest.

The photo above show the place where I saw one individual (August 2012) : a flat, shallow, slow-flowing stream under heavy tree cover (at ca. 350m).
Many streams of this limestone karst forest area dry up during the dry season - I don`t know if it is the case of this one.
I also observed along this stream some Coeliccia scutellum and many individuals of a recently described Coeliccia that I don't know the scientific name yet (article not yet published in the International Journal of Odonatology). Post about this Coeliccia sp. will come soon!


Coeliccia mingxiensis Xu, 2006

Coeliccia mingxiensis was recorded from Tam Dao "National Park" in 2009 by Dô Manh Cuong along a swift, rocky stream in a relatively untouched forest area (alt. 800m a.s.l). Specimens were compared with the original description and also confirmed by Xu Qi-han, who described C. mingxiensis based on a single teneral male specimen from Mingxi, Fujian, China.

The male of this species is remarkable for its bright yellow hook-shaped marking on dorsum synthorax. According to Dô Manh Cuong, this marking becomes red violet with age. 
The side of synthorax is largely yellow with a short reddish stripe.

The last abdominal segments (S10, S9 and distal part of S8) are dirty white, and S9-10 are washed with pale pink.
Caudal appendages are white ivory: the superiors bear a ventral subapical curve and point tooth at about 2/3 of their length (not easy to see, except in ventral view) as well a sharp spine subbasally (dorsal view); the inferiors have a downward apex. In lateral view, superior appendages slightly shorter than the inferiors.

Lateral view

Dorsal view

Ventral view

Until recently Coeliccia mingxiensis was only known from Mingxi (Fujian Province, China) and Tam Dao (northern Vietnam), in montane forests. But in April-May 2015, T. Kompier recorded this species in 2 other northern Vietnam sites: Xuân Son National Park (lowland forest) and Mount Mau Son (montane forest, close to the Chinese border).

At Tam Dao, this species is known along a 100-200m stretch of one single stream. It is quite common there at the right time of year but has never been spotted elsewhere in this mountain range (Dô Manh Cuong pers. comm.). The portion of forest concerned, which is home to other interesting forest-dwellers such as Calopteryx coomani, Noguchiphaea yoshikoae..., is partly surrounded by "su su" fields (known in English as christophine or chayote). Those crops are gaining ground year after year (in conjunction with tourism development) and already adjoining the right bank of the stream. Situated downstream of the Tam Dao Hill Station, this site might also be subject to pollution discharge, especially at the peak tourist season. The stream banks littered with plastic wastes are a very sad and deplorable sight, especially in a so-called "National Park" *.

Tam Dao runs 80 km from north-west to south-east. This isolated granite ridge has more than 20 peaks with the elevation over 1,000m, several surpass 1,300m and the highest, Mount Tam Dao Bac, is 1,592m. This is one of the Vietnamese hotspots for odonatologists, but surveys are generally limited to the most accessible areas - i.e. around the Hill Station. Large parts of this mountain range remain unexplored and are likely to support other populations of Coeliccia mingxiensis - and even new species for science.

* Why "National Park" and not... National Park ? Because this area receive a low level of protection, unworthy of National Park values. Poaching happens everywhere... Bird and mammal richness decreased severely the last decades. This place suffers from the “empty forest syndrome” – i.e. a forest that looks intact, but where most wildlife has been eliminated.
Tam Dao : a wonderful place but a sad story,... except maybe for dragonflies lovers!


Rhipidolestes owadai Asahina, 1997

Male (Hoa Binh Province, ca 500m a.s.l.)

Rhipidolestes owadai is a species I have seen on a very few occasions at Tam Dao and near Thuong Tiên Nature Reserve at Hoa Binh. But in June 2014, at the top of Mau Son mountain, I bumped into dozens of individuals during a one-day trip.

Male and female are easily identifiable by the black synthorax marked with two white-yellowish broad stripes on the sides (the upper one extending on prothorax), and by the frontal parts of the head (labrum, ante- and postclypeus) white.

Male (Tam Dao, Vinh Phuc Province, 900m a.s.l.)

Wings hyaline. Pterostigma greyish, contrasting with the wing apices darkened (male).

Caudal appendages - dorsal view

Female (Tam Dao)

Extremities of the wings of a female. Apices not darkened.

Rhipidolestes owadai is only known from a handful of submontane and montane sites in northern Vietnam (Mau Son mountain, Loc Binh in Lang Son Province, Mount Tam Dao in Vinh Phuc Province and Thuong Tiên Nature Reserve in Hoa Binh Province) and central Laos. The species is likely to also be found in adjacent parts of southern China (Guangxi).

R. owadai has been described based upon specimens collected at Tam Dao.


Coeliccia sasamotoi Do, 2011

Coeliccia sasamotoi is a rather large-sized Coeliccia species, described based from specimens collected in 2004-2005 in central Vietnam (Ha Tinh Province) and central east Laos.

In 2011, I bumped into this species much further north, in the Hoa Binh Province, northern Vietnam (70 km east of Hanoi).

The male is a beautiful black and sky blue damselfly. The dorsum of synthorax bears 2 pairs of markings as follow: one pair of large patches, each one bicoloured (sky blue along the dorsal carina, whitish exteriorly), covering almost half the lower part of mesepisternum, and a much smaller upper pair.
Sides of synthorax with large bluish markings. The abdomen is largely black dorsally, including the last segments, contrasting with the light coloured anal appendages.

Caudal appendages white-yellowish, contrasting with the wholly black last segments.
  • Dorsal view
  • Lateral view : superior appendages thick and club shaped, widening apically, with ventral subapical tooth at 2/3 of their length.

  • Ventral view : inferior appendages of similar colour to superior appendages, with small black tooth at apex, of typical shape for the genus and slightly longer than the superiors.

A pair in tandem

Another pair seen on May 10, 2014, at Xuân Son National Park (Phu Tho Province)

The female is stouter than the male. The mesepisternum bears 2 pairs of yellow stripes, the upper one roughly half the size of the lower one.

Sides of synthorax and prothorax mostly yellow. Posterior pronotal lobe black with a broad raised process.
Abdomen black with yellow markings.

To my knowledge, Coeliccia sasamotoi is at least known from 4 low mountain (400-600 a.s.l.) localities: one in central east Laos (Bolikhamay Province), and 3 in central and northern Vietnam (in Ha Tinh, Hoa Binh and Phu Tho Provinces).

The site where I took almost all of those pictures (in Hoa Binh Province) is situated along a swift, rocky stream in secondary forest (ca 500 a.s.l.). I spotted males resting above small shaded pools in the beds, often in the company of C. acco, C. onoi.

Many thanks to Dô Manh Cuong for sending me his paper about the description of this new species, published in the International Journal of Odonatology.


Coeliccia onoi Asahina,1997

A pair in tandem (Tam Dao, 850m a.s.l)

I must confess that I was not keen on writing this post, because the taxonomic status of C. onoi Asahina, 1997 (described from Tam Dao, northern Vietnam) remains unclear. Indeed, C. onoi resembles closely to Coeliccia cyanomelas Ris, 1912, and according to R.A. Dow, C. onoi is “almost certainly” a junior synonym of C. cyanomelas.

In his description, Asahina did not mention the similarity between those 2 species. It is surprising, because onoi and cyanomelas resemble each other very closely (at least “superficially”, i.e. color pattern and markings) and are likely to share the same habitat (cyanomelas is common in southern China and probably don’t stop at the Vietnamese border…).

The original description and illustrations of Asahina are inadequate, and the type series of C. onoi must be re-examined, consider R.A. Dow.

Until the experts clarify this taxonomic issue (especially by examination and comparison of caudal appendages and penile organ), I decided to keep the name Coeliccia onoi Asahina, 1997 for all the specimens I spotted and photographed around Hanoi (Ba Vi, Cuc Phuong and Tam Dao).

Male (Tam Dao, 850m a.s.l.)

The male is a black an blue damselfly, with striking blue distal abdominal segments. The mesepisternum (dorsum of synthorax) bears a lower pair of short blue stripe, close to the dorsal carina. I spotted also many specimens with a second pair of very small markings on the upper mesepisternum, often reduced to minute blue points. In the Asahina’s description, the holotype male of onoi has only the lower pair of stripes; the upper part of the mesepisternum is entirely black.

In the photos of cyanomelas available on the internet (from China), this upper pair of markings is much more conspicuous than that of “my” specimens.

Male (Hoa Binh Province, 400m a.s.l.)

Sides of synthorax marked with 2 broad blue stripes, the upper one with a square-shaped notch anteriorly.
Abdomen black dorsally; S8 (distal half), S9, S10 and caudal appendages blue dorsally.  Superiors with a ventral subapical tooth at about c.2/3 of their length as well a sharpe spine subbasally ; inferiors have a downward apex.

Lateral view

Dorsal view

A male with 2 pairs of markings on the dorsum of the synthorax, the upper one very small (foothills of Tam Dao)

 Some immature males spotted in June 2013 at Tam Dao :

This species, if distinct from C. cyanomelas, is known from Tam Dao and some other sites of northern Vietnam (rather common sight at Tam Dao, Ba Vi, Cuc Phuong at least), in lowland and mountain forests.

If it is a synonym of C. cyanomelas, then this species is also widespread in China and common over parts of its range at least, with records from Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hainan, Hong Kong, Sichuan and Zhejiang Provinces, and from Taiwan.


Coeliccia scutellum Laidlaw, 1932

A pair in tandem (Mount Ba Vi, 800m a.s.l.)

Coeliccia tomokunii Asahina, 1997, described from Ba Vi and Cuc Phuong (northern Vietnam), is considered now to be a junior synonym of Coeliccia scutellum.

This is a large-sized brilliant species. The male is deep black and show in profile view 3 chrome yellow stripes : 2 on each sides of the synthorax, and a pair of patches closely adjoining on both sides of dorsal carina. A really stunning fellow!

The female for comparison (note the zigzaged line through ocelli)

S10 and distal part of S9 yellow, caudal appendages also. Superior appendages with inflated head, and almost equal in lenght (or slightly shorter) to the inferior ones.

The female is also a very cute little fellow. Her head is more contrasting than the male and marked with a pale zigzaged line through ocelli. The prothorax is yellow on sides, and bears a developped median standing process (see photo bellow).
Synthorax more yellow on sides than the male, with 2 narrow yellow humeral stripes.
Abdomen brownish with pale yellowish (but sometimes as bright yellow as the synthorax) spots on S8-9.

A pair in tandem at an oviposition site (Tam Dao, 900m a.s.l.)

Female ovipositing in a branch fell in a shallow stream (foothills of Tam Dao)

Coeliccia scutellum is known from Laos, northern Vietnam and Hainan in China.

In the "protected" areas around Hanoi (Tam Dao, Cuc Phuong, Ba Vi), this species is a rather common sight along small, shaded streams in hill and mountain forests.

Site of Coeliccia scutellum, Mount Ba Vi (800m a.s.l.). Small swift-flowing, rocky stream (2-3m wide) with heavy covert, in unexploited secondary forest.
Other Zygoptera spotted (in August) : Coeliccia acco, C. onoi/cyanomelas, Megalestes distans, Atrocalopteryx coomani, Agriomorpha fusca, Protosticta satoi, Devadatta ducatrix, Anisopleura qingyuanensis, Cryptophaea vietnamensis, Noguchiphaea yoshikoae.